Before he became the father of Texas, Stephen Fuller Austin served for a time in the territorial legislature of Missouri. He was a savvy, energetic legislator whose personal interests often aligned with the interests of his home district of Washington County.
For example, Austin aggressively pushed for a tariff to protect lead mining, the primary business in his district and his family’s business. He also advocated fiercely to get the government to grant a more favorable charter to the Bank of Missouri, of which his father was a founding director. Both efforts were intended for the benefit of his district and Missouri with the convenient side effect of directly benefiting Austin and his family.
The blurring of public and personal interests by elected officials is as old as representative government itself. This blur came to the fore in Wisconsin’s Washington County and has resulted in county leadership essentially forcing a supervisor to resign.
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